Mohsen Mosleh, Gordon Pennycook, David G. Rand
There is an increasing imperative for psychologists and other behavioral scientists to understand how people behave on social media. However, it is often very difficult to execute experimental research on actual social media platforms, or to link survey responses to online behavior in order to perform correlational analyses. Thus, there is a natural desire to use self-reported behavioral intentions in standard survey studies to gain insight into online behavior. But are such hypothetical responses hopelessly disconnected from actual sharing decisions? Or are online survey samples via sources such as Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk) so different from the average social media user that the survey responses of one group give little insight into the on-platform behavior of the other? Here we investigate these issues by examining 67 pieces of political news content. We evaluate whether there is a meaningful relationship between (i) the level of sharing (tweets and retweets) of a given piece of content on Twitter, and (ii) the extent to which individuals (total N = 993) in online surveys on MTurk reported being willing to share that same piece of content. We found that the same news headlines that were more likely to be hypothetically shared on MTurk were also shared more frequently by Twitter users, r = .44. For example, across the observed range of MTurk sharing fractions, a 20 percentage point increase in the fraction of MTurk participants who reported being willing to share a news headline on social media was associated with 10x as many actual shares on Twitter. We also found that the correlation between sharing and various features of the headline was similar using both MTurk and Twitter data. These findings suggest that self-reported sharing intentions collected in online surveys are likely to provide some meaningful insight into what content would actually be shared on social media.
Demival Vasques Filho, Dion R. J. O’Neale
Dynamical processes, such as the diffusion of knowledge, opinions, pathogens, "fake news", innovation, and others, are highly dependent on the structure of the social network on which they occur. However, questions on why most social networks present some particular structural features, namely high levels of
transitivity and degree assortativity, when compared to other types of networks remain open. First, we argue that every one-mode network can be regarded as a projection of a bipartite network, and show that this is the case using two simple examples solved with the generating functions formalism. Second, using synthetic and empirical data, we reveal how the combination of the degree distribution of both sets of nodes of the bipartite network — together with the presence of cycles of length four and six — explains the observed levels of transitivity and degree assortativity in the one-mode projected network. Bipartite networks with top node degrees that display a more right-skewed distribution than the bottom nodes result in highly transitive and degree assortative projections, especially if a large number of small cycles are present in the bipartite structure.
Mohsen Mosleh, Gordon Pennycook, Antonio Arechar, David Rand
Social media is playing an increasingly large role in everyday life. Thus, it is of both scientific and practical interest to understand behavior on social media platforms. Furthermore, social media provides a unique window for social scientists to deepen our understanding of the human mind. Here we investigate the relationship between individual differences in cognitive reflection and behavior on Twitter in a sample of large N = 1,953 users recruited via Prolific Academic. In doing so, we differentiate between two competing accounts of human information processing: an “intuitionist” account whereby reflection plays little role in daily life, and a “reflectionist” account whereby reflection (and, in particular, overriding intuitive responses) does play an important role. We found that people who score higher on the Cognitive Reflection Test (CRT) – a widely used measure of reflective thinking – were more discerning in their social media use: They followed more selectively, shared news content from more reliable sources, and tweeted about weightier subjects. Furthermore, a network analysis indicated that the phenomenon of echo chambers, in which discourse is more likely with like-minded others, is not limited to politics: we observe “cognitive echo chambers” in which people low on cognitive reflection tend to follow the same set of accounts. Our results help to illuminate the drivers of behavior on social media platforms, and challenge intuitionist notions that reflective thinking is unimportant for everyday judgment and decision-making.